What Is Stemware?

B. Leslie Baird

Stemware is the term used for drinking glasses that feature a stem, which connects its cup portion to the base. The drinkware itself may be made from glass, lead crystal, metal, or even a ceramic material. This type of drinking glass may be decorated with etchings or other artistic features. Cocktail, cordial, and wine glasses, as well as champagne flutes, chalices, and snifters can all be termed stemware.

Wine in stemware.
Wine in stemware.

In contrast to shot glasses or tumblers, the drinking portion of stemware is separated from the foot, or base. The stem is often used to hold the glass. In addition to adding elegance to the drinkware, this stem reduces fingerprints that can be left on fine glasses. Holding a drink by the stem also reduces heat that may be transferred from the hand to the liquid in the glass. This can be a factor in the taste of many beverages, including fine wines.

A cocktail in a martini glass.
A cocktail in a martini glass.

Lead crystal is one of the materials used in the manufacture of stemware. It is heavier than standard glass or thin crystal, which provides durability. This crystal can also be etched or cut in artistic patterns and will reflect light, adding elegance to a dinner table. Glasses can be purchased in colors to match a d├ęcor and may be translucent or opaque. A variety of metals are also used and this can create unusual and durable stemware sets. Very fine quality stemware sets sometimes feature the cups' rims bordered with gold.

A wine glass.
A wine glass.

Regular glass may also be used in manufacturing stemware, which can be less expensive and more appropriate for everyday use. Plastic drinkware may be purchased when hosting celebrations that require a large quantity of glasses. This type can be disposed of when the event is over.

Margarita glasses usually hold between 8 and 16 ounces.
Margarita glasses usually hold between 8 and 16 ounces.

Champagne flutes often have the longest stems. The flute, or bowl, portion is usually long and narrow to enhance the drinker's enjoyment of champagne. Shapes for other types can vary from large round bowls to angular shapes, which may designed for specific drinks or just for aesthetics. Drinkware sets can be purchased with short or long stems, but longer stems are often considered to be more elegant for formal dining use.

Wine glasses usually have cups designed to hold 10 to 22 ounces (295.7 to 650.6 ml). White wines are normally served in the smaller sizes. Cocktail glasses are typically designed to hold 7 to 8 ounces (207 to 236.5 ml), and margarita glasses hold 8 to 16 ounces (236.5 to 473 ml). An extra benefit of stemware is the ability to store the glasses in racks that allow them to hang upside down from stem and save cupboard space.

Champagne is usually served in stemware.
Champagne is usually served in stemware.

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